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O'Reilly: Very hard to oppose execution for killers like these

Offering people in prison the opportunity to earn

Offering people in prison the opportunity to earn a college degree is an enlightened initiative that would save money, increase public safety and salvage lives. Photo Credit: iStock

Cry me a river.

I'm sorry, I don't mean to be glib about the botched execution of Clayton D. Lockett in Oklahoma on Tuesday, but after I learned about the crime that put him on death row, I couldn't care much that the man briefly suffered in a semiconscious state. If that makes me a bad person, so be it.

Photos of Stephanie Neiman don't appear atop many news stories about Lockett's demise, but they should. Because what Lockett did to her put him on that execution table. He put himself there.

Neiman was a 19-year-old girl who had just graduated from Oklahoma's Perry High School before her murder in June 1999. She and two 18-year-old friends were dragged into a house by a shotgun-wielding Lockett and two accomplices. Lockett had been beating the house's occupant in a home invasion robbery, while the man's 9-month-old son was sleeping in a backroom.

There, Neiman's friends were beaten and repeatedly raped by all three men. When they were done, Lockett demanded that they all pile into Neiman's new Chevy truck, including the infant. The brave girl refused to give up the keys, so Lockett beat her, shot her twice, and then buried her alive with the help of his accomplices.

Two weeks earlier, Stephanie Neiman had been playing saxophone in the Perry High School marching band.

Lockett's execution forestalls for two weeks a second one that had been planned at the Oklahoma prison Thursday night. I don't want to write the words of what Charles Warner was convicted of doing because I can't bear to have the thought in my head again, but they need to be written. He raped and murdered an 11-month-old girl . . . an 11-month-old girl. Thinking of it makes me want to tear my hair out and wail.

I didn't used to support the death penalty. I'm Catholic. I'm supposed to oppose it. But then I read the transcript of what two serial killers did to a teenage girl over a period of days some years back. They audiotaped her cries so they could savor the cruelty later. I read the report of what Charlie Manson's gang did to Sharon Tate in 1968. Tate was eight months pregnant. I will not write those words. Stories like hers turned me.

People die all the time in this world. History is full of tragedies. Reports of civilian torture and deaths in Eastern Europe and Burma and Nanking during World War II fail to make sense 70 years later. But they do convince me that there is true evil out there, and its perpetrators, when caught dead to rights, need to go. Society has a right to express its outrage.

Death penalty opponents argue that this process demeans us, and perhaps it does. But when I think about Stephanie Neiman and Sharon Tate and all those dead and missing children out there, I don't really care. And yes, I agree, it is a shame that Lockett wasn't dispatched sooner. May God forgive his crimes, because some of us on Earth cannot.

William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant who is working on the Rob Astorino campaign for governor.